Who was Habakkuk?

In the Hebrew Bible or Christian Old Testament, Habakkuk was a prophet of God to the nation of Israel.

1. Name

Habakkuk ( חבקּוּק , ḥăbhaḳḳūḳ ) means "embrace," or "ardent embrace." Some of the ancient rabbis, connecting the name with 2 Kings 4:16 , "Thou shalt embrace a son," imagined that the prophet was the son of the Shunammite woman. The Septuagint form of the name, Hambakoúm ; Theodotion Hambakouk , presupposes the Hebrew ḥabbaḳūḳ ̌ . A similar word occurs in Assyrian as the name of a garden plant.

2. Life

Practically nothing is known of Habakkuk. The book bearing his name throws little light upon his life, and the rest of the Old Testament is silent concerning him; but numerous legends have grown up around his name. The identification of the prophet with the son of the Shunammite woman is one. Another, connecting Isaiah 21:6 with Habakkuk 2:1 , makes Habakkuk the watchman set by Isaiah to watch for the fall of Babylon. One of the recensions of the Septuagint text of Bel and the Dragon declares that the story was taken "from the prophecy of Habakkuk, the son of Jesus of the tribe of Levi."

This must refer to an unknown apocryphal book ascribed to our prophet. What authority there may be for calling his father Jesus we do not know. The claim that he was of the tribe of Levi may be based upon the presence of the musical note at the end of the third chapter. According to the Lives of the Prophets , ascribed, though perhaps erroneously, to Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis in Cyprus during the latter part of the 4th century ad, he belonged to Bēthcōhar , of the tribe of Simeon.

A very interesting story is found in Bel and the Dragon (33-39), according to which Habakkuk, while on his way to the field with a bowl of pottage, was taken by an angel, carried to Babylon and placed in the lions den, where Daniel ate the pottage, when Habakkuk was returned to his own place. According to the Lives , Habakkuk died two years before the return of the exiles from Babylon. All these legends have little or no historical value.


IBSE, (in the public domain) with minor edits.